Associate Product Manager Program
Welcome to the APM Site!
The Google Associate Product Manager (APM) program is a 2-year rotational program for recent university graduates interested in product management. Applications for our internship and full-time roles are now open.
Internship: Open to students graduating from a BS/MS/PhD program in Winter 2019 or Spring/Summer 2020. Please fill out an application by visiting our Google Careers page to learn more. Applications will remain open until October 31, 2018.
Full-time: Open to students graduating from a BS/MS/PhD program in Spring/Summer 2019 and industry candidates with up to 3 years of experience. You may fill out an application by visiting our Google Careers page.
A note from Brian Rakowski, APM Program Lead and VP, Product Management:
“When I took the job as Google's first APM in 2002, I knew the program would be a big deal for me, but I had no idea that the program would have such a lasting impact on so many other future APMs and even on Google itself. My first project was to work as the product manager for Caribou, the product that we would launch less than two years later, as Gmail. Google also gave me the opportunity to live in Zurich, build a browser from scratch that would become the world's most popular browser (Chrome), lead a fantastic team of PMs building the world's most popular OS (Android), and build an incredible phone called Pixel.
Today, hundreds of amazing people have become world-class product managers through the APM program. The people I've helped hire, mentor, and worked alongside are now shaping not only Google's most important products, but have made impressive contributions across the tech sector and beyond. The APM program is important to me and to so many current APMs and APM alumni, so we put this site together to provide an overview of the program for those of you who may be just starting to think about your career, or are already starting to go through the interview process."
Hope it's informative, Brian
Why Google APM
By Nisha Masharani, APM Class of 2015, Mountain View
Hi, I’m Nisha, and I’m an APM alumnus at Google. I started at Google in August 2015, and I’ve worked on a few teams, including the Android Essentials team, which builds apps like the clock and calculator apps on Android phones, and the Health Search team, which provides high-quality curated results about symptoms, conditions, and treatments on Google Search.
When I talk with people about the APM program, there are a few questions that come up frequently. I always answered those questions with my perspective, but I wanted to know what other people at Google thought. So, I did some sleuthing and came up with answers to some of those questions.
Why does the Google APM program exist?
Once upon a time, in 2002, Google knew we needed product managers to help figure out what the company’s “next big things” would be. Traditional product managers in the industry were often highly experienced, with business degrees, and had established ways of doing things that were different than Google's culture. As an engineering-driven company, however, Google needed PMs with a technical background, who could work with engineers, designers, and other functions to figure out, creatively and collaboratively, what teams should do next.
At the time, Google's first woman engineer, Marissa Mayer, had transitioned to a product management role. She thought that she could hire the right product managers for Google. So, she made a bet with Jonathan Rosenberg, who ran product at Google at the time, that she could hire and train new product managers faster than he could hire product managers from the industry. She started hiring new and recent graduates who could be Google engineers, but who had an interest in product strategy and design as well. She gave them products to manage, provided them some mentorship, and without any further training, she let them loose on the company. And thus, the APM program was born!
In my experience, Google leaders value the APM program because it allows them to develop strong leaders from scratch, within the company. I’ve seen senior leaders invest in me and my fellow APMs by becoming mentors, providing feedback, or even just spending time with us. That investment is reflected in the highest ranks of leadership as well: Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google and Alphabet board member, once told Steven Levy, journalist for Wired Magazine, that he imagines that an APM will become the eventual CEO of the company.
How has the Google APM program changed since its inception in 2002?
The APM program has stayed the same in a lot of ways since its inception. However, there have also been lots of changes. A few key changes include:
Program size: I started as an APM in 2015, and in my year we had about 44 APMs. The first class was only seven APMs, so it’s grown a lot! The classes after mine have been about the same size as mine (45/year) even as Google has grown. For me, the small class size was great because I could get to know everyone, we were able to build a pretty strong community, and every one of us was able to get individualized attention and support.
More mentorship: When I joined the APM program, I was given three mentors: (1) an alumni advisor, who is a seasoned PM who used to be in the APM program; (2) a buddy, who was an APM a year above me; and (3) one-on-one sessions with a management coach. I’ve also participated in a self-organized APM lean in circle, and APMs will often self-organize other forms of peer mentorship and feedback as well.
APM trips: As an APM, there were two types of educational trips on which I went: 1) The APM Trip, where we visited four different cities around the world to learn about successful products, technology in different markets, understanding local users, and learning how to build products for a global user base. The trip has grown since its inception, going from one city in its first year to four cities across two weeks. 2) APM Mini-trips started a few years ago. On these trips, we visit a city within the US to learn more about an industry or area that we’re curious about. For example, my first year, I went on a trip to St. Louis to learn about agriculture tech!
Different locations: Google is a global company, with many offices around the world. However, we only have APMs in a few of those offices, because having a strong PM community and substantial PM roles is so important to being a successful APM. We currently have APMs in Mountain View, San Francisco, New York, London, Zurich, Sydney, and Tokyo.
Throughout the APM program, the program collects feedback from us on what works and what doesn’t work. I’ve seen lots of changes in the program, even during my three years at Google!
What do APMs like about the APM program?
The APM program provides lots of benefits to participants, but there are some that stand out. Based on my conversations with APMs, these are the things APMs love most:
APMs love the APM community: The APM community is one of the key benefits of the APM program. APMs are given lots of opportunities to bond with their class, the most notable of which is the two-week APM trip. In my experience, there’s nothing like travelling around the world to bond people together!
APMs feel valued: APMs are treated like full Google PMs by their teams and leadership, and APMs I talked to said this was one of their favorite parts of the program. Part of this is due to the internal reputation of the APM program, but most of this, it seems, is due to the strength of individual APMs. APMs deliver, and therefore, they’re respected and treated like every other PM.
APMs feel supported: APMs that I talked to mentioned the strength of their mentorship network as a huge benefit of the program. The program assigns APMs with several mentors, but in my experience, my informal mentorship relationships are also critical to my learning and happiness.
APMs get large scope: APMs are often given ownership of projects that are large and complex. This sounds intimidating, but most of the APMs I spoke with loved this complexity, and were excited about working on hard problems!
In my experience, another key benefit of the APM program is the size of the network. Since the APM program is the oldest of its kind (it’s been going since 2002!), there are hundreds of APM alumni throughout the world, and they’re often willing to chat with APMs and other APM alumni. Even in my day-to-day job at Google, I seem to meet APMs and APM alumni all the time, and if I have a question or need to learn something new, I can always find an APM who can help me.
What do Googlers think about the APM program?
APMs are known within Google to be scrappy, to have strong executional skills, and as empathetic product leaders. When I meet new PMs (or engineers or designers or …) and mention to them that I joined Google via the APM program, they often say something like “oh, I hear APMs are awesome!” (which is always a bit embarrassing).
PM and engineering leaders throughout Google know that APMs are high-quality PMs, and they often try to get them on their teams. Leaders like Sundar Pichai (CEO of Google), Jonathan Rosenberg (senior vice president of Product Management at Alphabet), and Eric Schmidt (former CEO of Google and Alphabet board member) are huge sponsors of the program as well.
Why is Google a great place to be an APM?
There are a couple of things that I love about being an APM at Google:
It is hard to get bored at Google. The company is huge and works on many amazing technologies (such as Gmail, YouTube, Search, Android, and more). Google is also a community, with lots of opportunities for socialization and “extracurriculars,” such as volunteering, teaching, and learning.
Google hires amazing people. When I asked Brian Rakowski (the first APM and executive sponsor of the APM program) why Google is a great place to be an APM, he said that Google is awesome because “if you’re interested in anything, one of the world’s experts on it is probably at Google.” For example, when I was learning about how users search for health information on Google Search, I was able to find several world-class public health experts at Alphabet!
We get to focus on the user. Google has a culture of prioritizing excellence and user needs. APMs get to focus on building for the user and their needs, and are rewarded for doing so.
What skills do APMs use to be more effective?
By Dan Schlosser, APM Class of 2016, New York
When I first became an Associate Product Manager at Google, I didn’t really know what being a product manager actually entailed. I wasn’t sure if I was going to do a good job, and I wasn’t even sure what I needed to learn. I was relieved to find out that I wasn’t alone: Associate Product Managers join the program with a wide diversity of backgrounds and experiences, and are unlikely to have previous experience being a product manager.
Since I’ve joined the program, I’ve learned from my managers, mentors, and team members what it takes to be a strong APM. APMs employ a variety of skills to be effective in their day-to-day work. At a high level, these skills can be broken down into three categories: execution, teamwork, and vision.
While all of these skills are good to have as a product manager, which ones are most important will vary highly depending on the project and team. Ultimately, the job of a product manager is to make their team more effective, and different teams require different contributions from an APM.
The product manager is responsible for the long-term vision of their product and the short-term priorities that determine how the team works towards that vision. That isn’t to say that PMs make all of these decisions, they just ensure that the right decisions get made. Often, effective leadership involves evangelizing another team member’s idea (even if you initially disagreed with it). It’s better to disagree and commit than get stalled choosing between two good options. From long term vision to short term triage, vision skills fall into several categories:
- Gathering data, opinions, and user feedback: Product managers aren’t expected to know the answers to problems, they’re expected to find them. Often, the most effective way to find the right answer to a problem is to ask team members, gather their responses, and coalesce these into the best path forward. Other times, more detailed user research, data analysis, or market studies are needed.
- Triaging incoming requests: With the help of the support team, PMs are responsible for helping to prioritize incoming feature requests and bugs in order to determine which should be addressed first.
- Selecting and measuring success metrics: A big part of setting the vision for a product is defining what metrics represent success for the team. This allows other team members to make decisions that align with the team’s vision. APMs are also responsible for analyzing experiments and other data, measuring progress against the metrics they created.
- Creating a long-term vision: Many projects require long term planning. PMs are responsible for learning about the market, understanding technology and the opportunities it could create, and forecasting what user problems will need solving in the coming years. From this, they create a compelling vision for how their product will evolve to meet users’ needs.
Building products at Google is a team sport. A given launch may involve the work of tens or even hundreds of people. Associate Product Managers are the default point of contact for questions, and are involved in almost every decision that is made for a product. Working with both the core team and other stakeholders requires several skills:
- Working closely with engineering teams: PMs are chiefly responsible for working closely with engineers, understanding technical challenges, and identifying ways to overcome them. This partnership with engineering requires a deep understanding of technology, often from a background in Computer Science or a related field.
- Facilitating productive dialog: Not everyone will always agree on the best path to building a product that users love. In these situations, product managers should be a balancing force, ensuring that conversations remain productive, inclusive, and are resolved appropriately.
- Working with partners: Some projects require working with many partners outside of the core team, both within and outside of Google. PMs are expected to represent the product, ensuring its success by incorporating the feedback and goals of other stakeholders.
- Working with legal, privacy, security, accessibility, and more: Google has developed robust policies that help product teams build the best products for every user, including compliance standards for legal, privacy, security, and accessibility issues. APMs are expected to understand these requirements and ensure they are met.
APMs are responsible for launching products, and that requires execution work. Execution work encompasses everything required to turn an idea into a launched product, and it's a core part of the APM job. Ultimately, visions have to be executed by someone, and the most successful PMs at Google are both head-in-the-cloud visionaries and detail-oriented executors. This requires a balance of hard and soft skills, depending on the context:
- Collecting product requirements: Product managers are responsible for the product requirements document, or PRD. Used as a guide for the engineers that are implementing the product, a PRD collects requirements, design decisions, and historical context in one place. This ensures that questions about the product from team members or external stakeholders are answered authoritatively. This also requires understanding the engineering requirements for the project, and making tradeoffs based on technical feasibility.
- Managing project progress: Effective use of Google’s issue tracking software (and Google Sheets) is an important execution skill. Many projects have dozens of external stakeholders, priorities, or ongoing efforts that need to be tracked. The product manager should always have the answer to “what’s the status of project X?” and project trackers are a great way to stay on top of this.
- Running effective meetings: Product managers participate in a lot of meetings. In meetings with engineers, designers, cross-functional stakeholders, and more, PMs should ensure that all meetings are an effective use of everyone’s time. This means sending out invitations, creating an agenda, staying on topic, and sending out notes and follow-up items afterwards.
- Staying organized: APMs receive a large volume of emails, bug reports, pings, and meeting requests. However, it’s their responsibility to effectively triage incoming communications, and ensure timely responses. This often means setting up labeling systems and other processes to ensure that no question goes unanswered.
- Doing whatever it takes: As a product manager, you should be ready to roll up your sleeves. For every exciting launch, there will be a handful of tasks that have no clear owner. An effective PM should take on these tasks willingly, because they keep the rest of the team focused on delivering the best product experience to users.
Finding the right balance
APMs aren’t expected to have all of these skills before joining Google, and depending on the team and project, some may be more important than others. A project involving lots of different teams working together may require a lot of coordination and clear tracking while a smaller, co-located team may need more help prioritizing issues or iterating on a design.
Product management requires a balance of hard and soft skills, and the APM program is designed to help APMs develop both while on the job. Vision, teamwork, and execution are critical to a career in product management, both at Google and beyond.
What is the APM interview like?
By Shreena Thakore, APM Class of 2017, Mountain View
I’m Shreena and I’m about to finish my first APM rotation. When I started preparing for my interviews, I had no idea what to expect. Through some online research I learned that I needed to demonstrate my “product, technical, and analytical abilities,” but as a college senior with limited industry exposure I didn’t know what any of those terms meant.
I soon discovered that the Google interview process was not an impossible stress test, but an environment set up to help you shine – and maybe even have some fun! A key component of creating that environment is increasing transparency. This article is a step toward giving you the resources you need so you can do your very best, but remember, it is just my personal advice, not Google's opinion.
Google’s APM program is an amazing opportunity for new-grads and early-career professionals to build cool, exciting, global-scale products. As an Associate Product Manager, you will:
- Develop feature ideas that address user needs
- Work cross-functionally (with engineers, UX designers, marketing, etc) to launch your features
- Determine metrics to evaluate the success of your features and make improvements Each interview will assess your ability to do well in one (or all) of these areas. Since the program is targeted at industry beginners, no formal product management experience or expertise is necessary!
1) Product: Product questions focus on design and strategy. You must understand your users, address their needs, analyze trade-offs, create long-term roadmaps, and be familiar with the industry landscape.
- How would you improve restaurant search?
- If you were to build the next great feature for Google Search, what would it be?
- How would you monetize a certain product more effectively?
2) Analytical: Building products at Google scale means dealing with enormous, ambiguous problem spaces. Analytical questions test your ability to systematically break down complex tasks with no clear right answer into smaller, solvable units.
- How many queries per second does Gmail get?
- How many Androids sell in the US each year?
- How do you know if the product is successful?
3) Technical: A large chunk of the role involves working closely with engineers to gauge technical feasibility, explore alternatives, and set timelines. You should review fundamental algorithms and be able to clearly convey technical concepts.
- Write an algorithm that detects and alerts meeting conflicts.
- How is a set different from an array?
My General Tips
1) Show empathy: As an Associate Product Manager, you are the primary ambassador and advocate for your users within the company. Step in their shoes as you think about needs, constraints, and feature ideas.
2) Communicate effectively. We’ve all heard that good communication is essential to a good interview. What does that mean? Here are some tips:
3) Provide a roadmap: Outline the structure of your answer at the very beginning so your interviewer knows what to expect. This will also help you organize your thoughts and stay concise.
4) Think out loud: Your interviewer is interested in your thought process and approach to the problem. Don’t wait to speak until you have the answer; show the interviewer how you got there!
5) Write things down: Use the whiteboard or a notepad to make bullet points, diagrams, wireframes – whatever helps you get your ideas across.
6) Conversation, not interrogation: Actively engage your interviewer – approach the situation as you would if a coworker asked you the question.
7) Be confident: Pause for water if you need to. Take a few moments to reflect if you need to. Do whatever is necessary for you to feel comfortable, calm, and in control. Believe in your ideas, but feel empowered to point out issues with those ideas and critique them.
8) Listen closely. Make sure you capture all the nuances of the problem before you try to solve it. Jot down any important details. Frame the problem and ask the interviewer if you missed anything. Ask questions, then ask more questions.
9) Improve and iterate. There is always room for improvement. Your first idea may be great, but see if you can do better. Here are some ways you can polish your answer:
- Consider edge cases: Venture beyond the normal. Account for special circumstances and extreme parameters. For a product question, this could mean thinking about internationalization, accessibility, and ethics. Don’t get distracted though — make sure to communicate your core idea before branching into offshoots.
- Get creative: Venture beyond the obvious. Present bold, ambitious ideas. After all, Google started with two university students deciding to organize all of the world’s information and make it universally accessible! Push the boundaries of your imagination – there is no such thing as a silly idea.
- Explore multiple alternatives: Examine other possible ways to address the problem. Discuss their relative pros and cons.
- Evaluate your solution: Note any trade-offs, constraints, security and privacy implications. How do you prioritize what’s important? What should be part of the minimum viable product (MVP) and what’s simply nice-to-have?
10) Manage your time. Ask your interviewer about the format of the interview and pace yourself accordingly. Check-in with your interviewer to see how you’re doing on time. Make sure you have enough room to explore details and convey your depth of thinking.
11) Practice, practice, practice. Do mock interviews and record yourself to see how you do. Interview other people to see what it’s like on the opposite side. Make note of what works and what doesn’t. Spend time thinking about products you like and dislike. Think about how to make them better.
Have fun! Your interviews are a valuable opportunity to meet passionate people and solve interesting challenges.
- Cracking the PM Interview – Gayle Laakmann McDowell, Jackie Bavaro
- The Design of Everyday Things – Don Norman
- Cracking the Coding Interview – Gayle Laakmann McDowell
- Business Model Generation – Alexander Osterwalder, Yves Pigneur
- The Algorithm Design Manual – Steven S. Skiena
What are some added benefits of the APM program?
By Michelle Danoff, APM Class of 2017, New York
The APM program provides a wide range of opportunities to foster growth both professionally and personally. These opportunities can help you learn more about how to be a great PM, and give you a chance to form relationships with your APM class. Read on to learn more about the APM Trip, Mini Trips, and Management Coaching.
The APM Trip
One of the oldest traditions of the APM program is the “APM Trip," a two-week trip around the world that your entire class plans and goes on together. The trip happens after your first year of the APM program, and typically visits 4 different cities. This summer, my APM class visited Tokyo, Shanghai, Tel Aviv, and Warsaw!
The goal of the trip is to learn about the tech industry in different cultures and markets. In each city, APMs meet with Googlers at the local office, as well as local startups and corporations to learn about how those companies are thinking about technology. We also meet with locals in each country to better understand how users around the world approach technology. The trip is also a chance to get to know other APMs — since APMs are based all over the world (Zurich, New York, London, Sydney, San Francisco, and Mountain View), the trip is a perfect opportunity to connect with APMs you don’t see regularly.
APM mini trips
In addition to the main APM Trip, APMs go on three-day “mini trips” in small groups both years of the program. All of the APMs (both first year and second year APMs) break into groups of around 10, and each group visits a city in the United States to learn more about an industry they’re passionate or curious about. On the trips, APMs meet with local companies to learn more about the work they’re doing. The goal is to see a wide range of companies and to get a breadth of understanding of the industry and the impact that industry is making on local and national communities. Often, APMs find that learning about a new industry provides insight into the products that they work on at Google. After the trip, APMs share their learnings and reflections with the APM community.
As an example, my 2018 mini trip visited Austin and Houston to learn more about clean energy technology. The group met with companies including clean energy startups, an oil rig, and an investment bank that works in the energy space. These company visits helped give an overview of what clean energy technologies are being developed, as well as a more comprehensive picture of the industry. On my trip to Texas, we learned about what needs to be overcome, both technologically and politically, to facilitate a transition to clean energy, and were able to share those findings with the broader APM community. I found the mini trip to be a great chance to get to know APMs in other offices, and APMs in other classes in a smaller group setting.
Management coaching is an excellent resource to help support and kickstart professional development. Management coaches are professional management advisors who can give advice on all things work related, ranging from how to navigate projects to how to think about career development. One-on-one management coaching is designed to provide APMs the skills and mentoring necessary to be effective communicators, managers, and future leaders.
APMs can participate in management coaching for the duration of their time in the APM program, and as an added benefit, can continue to meet with their coach throughout their tenure as a PM at Google. Management coaches can help with a wide range of things, including building skills (like giving great presentations), advising on work-related situations, and helping with long-term career planning. Each APM gets to design their own personal development program and goals with their management coach.
APMs find their management coach to be a great source of advice and learning. Management coaches have helped APMs prepare talks for industry conferences like Google I/O and Cloud Next, develop negotiation tactics to close deals with large partners, and work on time management skills.
In addition to the trips and coaching, the program plans many events throughout the year. Some of these are social, such as volunteer events and APM offsites (this year, APMs went on a snow trip and a rafting trip). There are also many opportunities for learning, such as skill-building classes facilitated by PMs and management coaches.
The APM program continues to experiment with new programs and resources. We expect APMs to give feedback on existing programs and pilot new initiatives with their class every year.
Q&A with current APMs and recent alumni
By Sharon Stovezky, APM Class of 2016, Zurich. Wendy Ginsberg, APM Class of 2015, London.
We get a lot of questions about the APM program and what APMs do in their role, so we decided to ask a few of our APM classmates some common questions that candidates and applicants (and even our friends and family members) are curious to hear answers too.
Below you’ll read their responses to everything from “How did you decide to become a PM?” to “What has been your proudest moment at Google?” We tried to get a variety of responses from various current APMs and recent APM alumni around the world and across Google. The stories below are as diverse as our APM community, and hopefully after reading you can see that there is no single form that an APM takes!
We also caught up with Brian Rakowski to ask him a few questions about the APM program. Scroll to the bottom to find out what it was like being the first APM at Google and his most embarrassing APM trip story.
What's your story?
“I wanted to be a doctor since I was a child, so choosing my major in college was a no-brainer — I studied neuroscience on a pre-med track. Two years into college, I decided to explore my other passion: technology. My junior year, I took a few computer science classes and interned at Zynga. I was hooked! So I switched majors into computer science and rushed to complete the requirements for my bachelor’s degree. After graduating, I helped start a video game company and later returned to school to finish my master’s degree in computer science.” - Alex, APM 2016, Mountain View
“I was born in Israel but my dad’s job, at an Israeli start-up that was growing like crazy, took us to St. Louis. I spent the first 10 years of my life in the U.S. My dad’s company moved all the families who relocated to the same neighborhood - we used to call it “The Kibbutz”. Everyone was working in tech and it was kind of like living on a tech campus that was part Israeli part American. We all grew up together and used to do dinners and holidays in the neighborhood. Returning to elementary school in Israel was a funny experience of homecoming. I felt at home, but there was a part of me that was different too. St. Louis was the first time I realized what technology companies were and it definitely stuck with me.” - Muli, APM 2013, Zurich
“I was born in South Carolina and grew up mostly in Los Angeles with my parents and my younger brother. I grew up playing lots of video games, which I loved. I studied Electrical Engineering in undergrad but felt like I had always been passionate about software, so I ended up doing a Masters and staying in school for a fifth year.” - Bryan, APM 2014, Tokyo
“I was born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The Malaysia I grew up in is very different than now; it was very disjointed from the tech industry. My school computer class taught me how to use Microsoft Word, a mouse, the keyboard. I was super interested in computers, but had no idea about computers and tech, since my computer class was all clerical tasks. Actually, the first program I wrote was a game in Powerpoint! I developed a bunch of these games: RPGs, action games, etc.” - Jian, APM 2015, Mountain View
“I grew up outside of Washington, DC and my life had always been surrounded by politics and policy. Both of my parents work in economic policy. Not surprisingly, I developed my own passion for public service and policy that has accompanied me since. I spent a lot of time in college talking to people who were doing work related to policy and public service, from city governments to legal defense.” - Dina, APM 2016, San Bruno
“I grew up in the Bay Area. Growing up both my parents were working, which shaped my interests. My dad is an entrepreneur and engineer who started a company that makes flex circuit boards. My mom is a plant biologist and research scientist. My mom inspired my interest in biology and science, and I was inspired by how my dad built something from the ground up and loved his work.” - Janvi, APM 2015, Mountain View
“I grew up between Hong Kong and Mumbai - two huge cities. I was interested in so many different things and wanted to try it all. In high school I realized that the university systems in India and Hong Kong require you to specialize from day one, and I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to study yet. I felt like I needed more freedom to combine all the things I was really interested in, and that drew me to looking at schools in the U.S. with a liberal arts education system. I went into college to study philosophy and ended up with a Computer Science degree.” - Shreena, APM 2017, Mountain View
“I grew up in Seattle, right in the middle of the city. Growing up in a city and learning to navigate it has influenced who I am in many ways. Nothing is invisible in a large city - you’re always aware of a community of different people around you and at some point you become civically engaged. It’s something I’m really grateful for. In high school, I always tried to customize my schedule and do things that were never going to fly with my guidance counselor. I guess it’s not a surprise I ended up with a college experience that included everything from political science and computer science to theatre and comedy.” - Sam, APM 2016, Mountain View
What did you want to be when you were younger?
“An astronaut! But then I realized how physically strenuous it was going to be. So, I decided I wanted to work in Mission Control instead.” - Janvi, APM 2015, Mountain View
“I was kind of interested in everything from medicine to comparative literature. In high school, my chemistry teacher suggested I become an engineer, which was pretty nebulous to me at the time. I thought all engineers built bridges, but I ended up taking a few computer science classes anyway and was hooked. Computer science is so applicable to real-world problems that I care about.” - Dina, APM 2016, San Bruno
“My dad was a doctor, so at my pre-sentient age, it was always “a doctor.” The moment I learned about computers, it was technology all the way!” - Jian, APM 2015, Mountain View
“Either a writer or a philosopher - growing up, I spent so much time reading. At school, I was somewhat interested in STEM, but humanities always seemed more expressive and magical.” - Shreena, APM 2017, Mountain View
“Athlete all the way! I did a ton of sports as a kid: soccer, hockey, basketball. I was on the Israeli national hockey team and as a teenager couldn’t imagine doing anything else.” - Muli, APM 2013, Zurich
“Doctor, always! Probably because my mom, dad, and step-mom are all doctors: a psychiatrist, neurosurgeon, and neurologist.” - Alex, APM 2016, Mountain View
“I had no idea. I feel like when I was super small I wanted to drive or fly or something cool like that. Then, when I got a bit older, I decided I wanted to be a video game tester, because I loved playing video games and wanted them before they were released.” - Bryan, APM 2014, Tokyo
“I changed my mind a lot as a kid. I started off wanting to become a political scientist since my dad is a social studies teacher. Later on, I met a family friend who was a computational biologist and I became obsessed with that - even did a cool internship in high school. It wasn’t until college that I started understanding what I loved - math and computer science.” - Sam, APM 2016, Mountain View
How did you decide to become a PM?
“I discovered product management quite serendipitously during my military service. I was working in intelligence and effectively served as a product manager, the liaison between users, engineers and strategy for security products. I loved it and ended up becoming an officer and staying in the army for five years. In university, I continued building products as part of an entrepreneurship program that brought together students from all disciplines. Together with a few friends, I built a social platform for watching sports games and it was a ton of fun. It was just a scrappy MVP on top of WhatsApp, but it was thrilling to see user activity pouring in during games. At the end of the year I knew that I found what I wanted to do and the APM program sounded like the perfect fit.” - Muli, APM 2013, Zurich
“I interned as a software engineer in my sophomore year, and I loved it. However, I realized I was coding all day, since I would leave work and still hack on side projects, which was one of my hobbies. I thought maybe I would try something else as my day job, because coding was already my passion, and it could be fun to try something that approached technical problems from a different angle. So I looked outside of software engineering, but still in tech. I learned about product management at my college’s career fair and it seemed interesting, so I applied to the APM internship and was accepted. Even as a super technical person, I felt satisfied with my new balance between technical depth and horizontal visibility into architecture and strategy. I felt I could help and empower my team in an entirely different way, which motivated me. On the last day of my APM internship my team made me a thank you card, and I felt like an impact multiplier. It felt good.” - Jian, APM 2015, Mountain View
“Sophomore year of college my friend and I were awarded a $10k summer fellowship grant to do social work in India, providing gender education workshops to schools and colleges. We thought about the types of experiences and conversations we were lucky enough to have that made us dream bigger, and we wanted to replicate that for youth - and especially women - across India. One of our workshops was uploaded online and went viral - it got a million views and 100k shares. We made the front page of the Times of India and started getting interview requests. It was a crazy adventure and I ended up taking three semesters off to work on the project full time. For me, it was the experience of a lifetime - I fell into running my own start up without realizing it. I learned what it takes to run something - defining the product, operations, fundraising and growth - and realized how much I loved this type of cross functional work. When I came back to school, I was looking for a job that could give me that type of experience - and when I heard about the APM program I was attracted to it immediately.” - Shreena, APM 2017, Mountain View
“My college roommate had an interview for the Google APM internship one day, which is the first time I heard about the role. I asked him what it was, and it seemed interesting to me, so I applied too. I still didn’t really understand what product management was, even throughout the interview process, but I ended up with an offer and took it. I absolutely loved the internship, and decided to come back full time. “ - Bryan, APM 2014, Tokyo
“In college I went to a talk by this woman who worked at a health tech seed fund in San Francisco. She was talking about digital health, a burgeoning area using software to transform the healthcare industry. I was inspired and then interned at that seed fund. Originally I started thinking my place in this field would be in business development or marketing, since I studied Neuroscience. However, throughout the internship I realized I was mostly interested in the product itself: designing the experience, and how you can change behavior and the way people think via design. People said if you want to be a PM, start at a big tech company who builds great consumer products and learn from them, and to strengthen my technical background, that’s exactly what I did.” - Janvi, APM 2015, Mountain View
“In college, I thought I wanted to work on something related to government and interned on the Civics team at Google in DC. I had a great time and got to build out some really cool datasets, but still felt like I wanted to be closer to the ground. Most of my senior year was spent talking to people who were doing all types of policy and public service work, which led me to a data analyst position on the Hillary Clinton campaign beginning two weeks after graduating from college. Working in the campaign headquarters in New York was a crazy experience. I learned so much about political persuasion, how content gets produced and how campaigns are being run. It was the experience of a lifetime, but I realized I’d like to spend more time learning in a structured environment that would help me grow. The APM program seemed like a great opportunity to do just that.” - Dina, APM 2016, San Bruno
“Loving the computer science classes I took in college, I started experimenting with tech by taking on an engineering internship. Throughout my summer working as a software engineer, I saw myself become very curious about product, design, and other parts of the development process. A friend told me about the APM program and it sounded interdisciplinary just in the way I was looking for. I was hooked.” - Sam, APM 2016, Mountain View
How would you describe your job?
“Our roles are a lot more cyclical than people might think. It’s not day-to-day that the role changes, but it’s more like quarter by quarter, or month by month. For a month you could just be thinking, researching, and fleshing out overarching theories. The end of a year is a big time for this, and it’s a lot less tactics and a lot more design sprints and brainstorms. We also do research to vet ideas; we test products and talk to users to understand the market. And, of course, we look at a lot of usage data to find trends. Other times, it’s very project based. I get involved in user design and engineering design. My role has a lot of partner interactions (OEMs and content providers), since I work on a product that requires tight integration with third party products.” - Jian, APM 2015, Mountain View
“Maps is very consumer focused, so there’s a lot of collaboration with the UX team. Typically, I have about a half day of meetings (1:1s, status updates, decision meetings), and other times I’m following up on those action items, or carving out time to think about larger initiatives or working with UX to create new designs and new strategies. We’re lucky enough to have UX researchers on our team too.” - Bryan, APM 2014, Tokyo
“I’d say my job is a good balance of strategy and execution. I spend a lot of time with user researchers thinking about what surveys or research studies we’ll do. We have a strong feedback loop of early testing with real users. On the execution side, once we know an idea has gained momentum, we get a rough sketch of what a product will look like, and discuss how we’ll implement it. We then find the hardest parts and decide where we can cut scope for a v1 release. Other than that I mostly work on PRDs (Product Requirement Docs meant to help engineers understand what to build) and specs. I also work a good amount of time with privacy, legal, and policy, depending on the type of launch, and doing data analysis to review launches and see how they landed.” - Janvi, APM 2015, Mountain View
“Every day, there are two mental hats that I wear — planning and execution. When I’m in planning mode, I spend a lot of time thinking about metrics my team should be driving, areas of opportunities and the types of projects we should be focusing on. I spend time doing foundational research and work with executives to make sure we’re aligned with company priorities. When I’m in execution mode, I do a lot of detailed work with engineers and designers to move projects towards launch. I troubleshoot, try to understand what’s missing and collaborate with marketing and PR around communicating value.” - Muli, APM 2013, Zurich
What has been your proudest moment at Google?
“For April Fool’s Day in 2018, another APM and myself decided to turn Google Maps into a scavenger hunt around the world where users try to find Waldo. We pitched it to different stakeholders and were able to raise a lot of enthusiasm around the project. Engineers and UX designers volunteered to help us build the experience and worked on the project in their free time. We collaborated with external partners and lawyers around the concept and copyright. When I opened up Google Maps on the first of April I couldn't believe what we had built from one crazy idea!” - Shreena, APM 2017, Mountain View
“I love being part of changing the way people use established technologies. I work on the Assistant on TV team and am trying to evolve TVs from what we know about them today: from remote control based to voice activated with far-field microphones. This is a mature industry where I’ve had to think outside what we take as given. It’s cool that I can actually affect change with major companies in this space, like Nvidia and Sony!” - Jian, APM 2015, Mountain View
“When I look back, it’s not one particular moment, but my overall growth. Especially when it comes to communicating on thorny and ethical questions in a values-driven and respectful way. The questions we grapple with at Google are extremely hard and I’m proud of how I’ve learned to approach them with open-mindedness and respect.” - Dina, APM 2016, San Bruno
“Launching a feature to celebrate the Japanese Cherry Blossom festival on Maps. In Japan, the Cherry Blossom festival is a huge, annual cultural phenomenon that only lasts for two or three weeks. It’s always a very fun environment, and it’s absolutely beautiful. Everywhere you go during this time, the cherry blossoms are in bloom. I learned that some companies have data of where the best places to see the cherry blossoms are, and I thought Maps was the perfect place to surface this. Even though we’re based in Tokyo, we build products globally, and this was a unique opportunity to build something just for Japan. I teamed up with another APM alum in Tokyo and we pulled it off together using 20% time (time that Googlers can take to work on a project outside of our regular jobs one day a week) over several months. We’ve done it two years in a row now, and I’m so proud to be able to share the feature with people.” - Bryan, APM 2014, Tokyo
“Launching Pixel with my team. I dealt a lot with partnerships since I led connectivity at the time. I watched it get approved and out the door, and was proud that I helped the team negotiate a deal with one of the largest partners in America.” - Alex, APM 2016, Mountain View
“I work on a team at YouTube that empowers creators to be able to make a living off what they love to do. Throughout my time on the team, I have been able to meet incredible creators making videos about anything from bird watching to cooking. It’s been inspiring to watch people build a life that they love and a community around the content they produce and I feel so lucky to be able to help them achieve that.” - Muli, APM 2013, Zurich
“My first big launch: the Oscar’s experience on Search in 2016, which was especially cool because it was a big moment tied to this external event. We worked really hard to meet that deadline, and it was the first time I had seen the stuff we work on behind the scenes come to the foreground. Watching the Oscars and knowing that real people in the world were using the things you designed and built was awesome. I try to chase that feeling now; I’m motivated by getting the thing I’m building into people’s hands, taking a full product from proposal stage all the way to launch.” - Janvi, APM 2015, Mountain View
What are your interests outside of work?
“I love theatre and last November I took on a role in the production of Three Sisters by Chekhov in San Francisco. It was a pretty wild time - going to work in the morning and then spending all evening at rehearsals. Nevertheless, it was an incredibly energizing experience and I ended up inviting other APMs to come see me when it came out. I’m still civically engaged and try to do organizing in San Francisco when I can.” - Sam, APM 2016, Mountain View
“Sports have always been a huge passion of mine. Google Zurich has a soccer team and we play regularly and even compete against other Swiss companies. I also swim and hike regularly, which really helps me clear my head. But my new and biggest hobby for the past year and a half has been my twins! They don’t leave much time for other stuff!” - Muli, APM 2013, Zurich
“I recently became interested in figure skating, randomly. I got sucked into some corner of YouTube about ice skating, since the Olympics were coming up. It’s something I’ve always been pretty terrible at, so I just started taking lessons. I also really like music and going to concerts, and hiking and being outside.” - Janvi, APM 2015, Mountain View
“I read about everything: fiction, non-fiction, novels, poetry - you name it. I run and bike a lot. Recently I’ve been volunteering doing people’s taxes in San Francisco, which has been awesome!” - Dina, APM 2016, San Bruno
“I am attracted to fields where I feel completely inept; for example: music. I know so little about music, so I started learning piano and music theory. Also, art! I always paid so little attention to it, because I am very logical and never felt like I could pick it up. But recently I’ve gained an interest in understanding art and the thought process behind it. It’s a whole new world for me!” - Jian, APM 2015, Mountain View
“I’m a huge ultimate frisbee player. I played in college for five years, and I played pro in the US for one year. I’m currently playing for the top team in Japan, the Buzz Bullets, which consumes my weekends. Oh, and I have a dog, Mika.Spitz, who is definitely the cutest dog in the world.” - Bryan, APM 2014, Tokyo
“I do a lot of reading and writing. I love yoga and do it almost every day. I also enjoy traveling, and scuba diving. One day I hope to be a scuba instructor!” - Shreena, APM 2017, Mountain View
“Wow, too many. Right now: Piano lessons that I love, oil painting lessons, and drawing lessons. I’m really into skiing in the winter months, and running, basketball, and tennis all year round because I live in California.” - Alex, APM 2016, Mountain View
What do you like most about being an APM at Google?
“The fact that you start with this group - this cohort of APMs. It’s amazing to have that support from each other from Day 1, since we all start around the same time. You don’t realize how much you appreciated it at school and how much it’s rare in the working world. When work is stressful or confusing, you have a group of 45 people who empathize and are going through it too, who aren’t going to judge you. The peer group has your back and you connect for life.” - Janvi, APM 2015, Mountain View
“Community - although it’s a bit ironic to say because there are fewer APMs in Japan, but I still feel part of the bigger group. It feels like an extension of college or home. From the beginning, you have a group of 40 peers who are in the same boat: overwhelmed, feeling out of our depth, and trying to figure out our jobs for the first time. You get social peers to vent to, get dinner with, plan trips with, etc. The community also includes the classes around you, your Alumni Advisor, your Buddy, and your Management Coach. You really do get an overwhelming number of resources, if you choose to take advantage of them. Everything is there to help you succeed from the beginning.” - Bryan, APM 2014, Tokyo
“The APM community, hands down. That’s an easy question for me! Everyone I’ve met, talked to, or collaborated with has been super smart, interesting, and deep. Though there are some similarities since we all have the same job title, I’ve appreciated and been impressed by the different experiences people have had that led them here.” - Jian, APM 2015, Mountain View
“I couldn’t begin to imagine how much the APM community was going to shape my experience at Google. Moving to a new country and starting a new job was a huge change for me, and it was so cool to be able to share the successes, the failures and the challenges with other people who were in the same boat as me. We’ve grown so much together over the years and built friendships inside and outside of work. The APM network I have around the company gets more and more valuable every year and I can’t imagine having done things otherwise.” - Muli, APM 2013, Zurich
Interview with Brian Rakowski
By: Parthi Loganathan, APM 2016, Mountain View
Who are you? I'm Brian and I currently lead the Product Management team for the Pixel phone in Google’s Hardware team. I was the first APM Marissa [Mayer] hired at Google and now run the APM program.
You were the first APM? What was that like? Yes; I remember how excited I was when I saw the email about the opportunity. It was sent to the department list for my major at Stanford. I felt so lucky when I finally got the job after seven interviews and I still feel incredibly fortunate today. I definitely didn’t know much about what I was getting into and even less about what it meant to be a PM, but I had some amazing mentors and got to learn from some brilliant people.
What made you want to run the APM program? The APM program is such a special program, I think most APM alumni would jump at the opportunity to run the program. I was here first, so Marissa asked me when she left Google for Yahoo!. It was an easy decision. Being an APM at Google has unlocked so many doors for me that I never would have even considered possible, and I’m glad to be a part of that experience for others.
Why should someone out of college today consider becoming an APM? The two best things about the APM program are the other APMs you’ll meet and the opportunity to learn from some of the best Product Managers and engineers in the industry. I’m still in touch with most of the APMs from my class and many others that I’ve worked with over the years. It’s a great way to start your career and set you on a course to have a big impact on the world.
What’s your most embarrassing APM trip story? Before I started running the program, I joined the trip as an advisor. I had been busily reminding everyone to keep an eye on their belongings and not to lose anything for the past three days, when I walked out of a sushi shop without my backpack containing my phone, passport, and all my cash for the rest of the trip. I had to ask our bus to stop, so I could get out, get a taxi back to Tsukiji, and find the restaurant again. Thankfully, the friendly shop owner had tucked my bag in the back and cheerfully brought it out when I walked in the door.
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